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5 Ways to Step Up Your Gym's Group Exercise Game

Group exercise, or "group X," has become a staple at boutique studios. You can avoid losing market share—or even make gains—by reviewing your health club's group exercise program and making these five simple adjustments. 

1. Ask your members what they want. Frequent surveys are the best way to keep tabs on your members' needs.

"What owners think members want and like isn't necessarily the case," Marisa Hoff, general manager for Stevenson Fitness in Oak Park, CA, said in a recent IHRSA blog post. "You have to continue to survey; that will allow you to keep your programming fresh and cater to the needs of the members."

2. Don't try to be all things to all members

On the surface, this seems contradictory. Didn't we just say to ask your members what they want? But obviously, you can't tailor a group exercise class to the tastes of each individual. Your goal should be to deliver the fastest results to the most members as efficiently as possible.

"Gyms are losing the opportunity to give quick results to members because they program in 50 different types of classes in their class schedule and 50 different group fitness instructors to do it, instead of taking an approach to design the schedule so members can get results as quick as possible," said Constance Ruiz, president and co-founder of Vivafit.

3. Create a different experience in each class.

Although you should offer fewer types of classes, you should make the differences in those classes clear. That means presenting not only a different program for each class but also a different atmosphere.

"For Zoomba we dim the lights—boot camp is about the grid," Hoff recommended. "We use lighting and different techniques, like candles, to make each format feel totally different from the next so it's not just one big empty classroom." 

4. Embrace gender differences.

Smart health club owners provide equal numbers of group X opportunities for men and women. But that doesn't mean they provide the same opportunities.

As Ruiz noted, "women want to be social and have fun," while men tend to respond to more competitive group X activities like dodge ball. Even in a competitive atmosphere, however, the group dynamic is critical. As a New York City trainer noted in a recent Men's Journal article, men in exercise classes have "a foxhole mentality. The camaraderie helps push participants to the next level."

Co-ed classes, of course, are a third option to consider. 

5. Make group X a priority.

The rising popularity of group exercise ought to be reason enough for you to ramp up your program. It could be the easiest way for you to attract new members. And if that's not enough incentive, consider this: A recent study of by The Retention People found that 88% of group exercise members retained their membership during the duration of the study.

There's no question that more and more health club members are seeking group exercise. The only question is whether they'll find it at your club or someplace else.

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